This season for the Twins started on just about the flattest note possible. The club's prized free agency acquisition was nailed for steroids and suspended for half the year three days before the opener, then the team went 1-6 in its first week of games, getting outscored 45-16 by division rivals in the process.
Few would have guessed that almost six months later, the Twins would be angling for a playoff spot with a win total in the 80s.
The Twins are enjoying their best season in half a decade and hanging with the big boys even though their roster doesn't exactly stack up to the teams they're racing against.
The Astros are led by likely Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and Rookie of the Year shoe-in Carlos Correa. They're a Top 5 American League offense in OPS and they lead the league in team ERA.
The Angels, while less impressive on paper than Houston, are anchored by two-time reigning MVP Mike Trout and have gotten 38 homers from Albert Pujols. Their rotation features an assortment of youthful standouts such as Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Andrew Heaney.
The Twins, meanwhile, have gotten sub par production from nearly all of their highest-paid players, haven't had a significantly above-average starter in the rotation (excepting Tyler Duffey's late-season performance) and have endured instability in the bullpen all year.
Yet they're going to finish in the top half of the AL in wins, and they're still clinging to legitimate postseason hopes with six games remaining.
I don't know how to quantify or explain it, but the resiliency that this Twins team has shown again and again has been a defining factor in their success.
It started with the rebound from that horrible start. Following the 1-6 run to open the year, the Twins won three straight and 31 of their next 46 to move 11 games above .500 by early June. It was a remarkable turnaround and there have been several tribulations in the months since then that they have been able to overcome.
Remember that deflating four-game series in Kansas City back in early July where the Twins – within four games of first place at the time – had a chance to sweep but instead took two losses on 10th-inning walk-offs? Maybe not, because they immediately bounced back to take six of seven at home against the Orioles and Tigers.
How about that heartbreaking sweep at Yankee Stadium in August that included a gut-punch grand slam from A-Rod? The Twins followed that series by winning six straight games and four straight series.
More recently, there was the five-game slide at Target Field in mid-September that seemingly sucked every trace of wind from the team's sails. All they did was take six of their next eight to climb right back into the playoff picture.
Even on an individual level, we've seen this propensity for overcoming adversity. There are plenty of examples within the past few weeks alone.
Glen Perkins, amidst a brutal stretch and coming off perhaps his low point in Detroit, entered with a two-run lead against Cleveland on Monday night and gave up a hard-hit leadoff single on an 0-2 count, creating a "Here we go again" type of feeling. Then he struck out two straight hitters and escaped the inning unscathed.
Phil Hughes, battling back issues and decreased velocity, followed up his worst start as a Twin with a huge performance last week against the Indians, navigating his way through five scoreless innings.
And Tommy Milone, who was needed to replace an ill Hughes as emergency starter in a crucial game on Monday, shook off two rotten outings to deliver a strong performance and pick up a win.
The resilient quality that we have consistently seen from this year's Twins team really differentiates them in my mind from Ron Gardenhire's squads over the past four years. During that era, bad losses turned into losing streaks, and losing streaks turned into extended spells of misery. If you want to see how those teams reacted to getting knocked down, take a look at their records in August and September. As cliche as it sounds, Gardy's late-tenure groups really didn't seem to have much fight in them.
Regardless of what happens over the next five days, no one will be able to say that about the 2015 Twins, and to me, that's an extremely encouraging sign for a youth-led team overseen by a first-year manager.